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Planning Commission

Minutes
Tuesday, March 09, 2010

 

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION

REGULAR MEETING

MINUTES

March 9, 2010

 

CALL TO ORDER

Chair Pam Marsh called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.

 

Commissioners Present:

 

Staff Present:

Michael Dawkins

Dave Dotterrer

Pam Marsh

Debbie Miller

Melanie Mindlin

Mike Morris

John Rinaldi, Jr.

 

Bill Molnar, Community Development Director

Richard Appicello, City Attorney

April Lucas, Administrative Assistant

 

 

 

 

Absent Members:

 

Council Liaison:

*Larry Blake

 

Eric Navickas, absent

               

*Commissioner Blake did not attend the first part of the meeting for the SOU Master Plan public hearing,

  but was present for the Croman Minority Report and TGM Grant Application agenda items.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Commissioner Marsh noted the Economic Development update will come before the Commission at their April meeting and stated their March 30th Study Session will likely be canceled. Marsh also added “Consideration of 2010 TGM Grant Application” to the end of the agenda.

 

CONSENT AGENDA

A.      Approval of Minutes.

1.  February 23, 2010 Planning Commission Minutes.

Commissioner Dotterrer clarified on Page 3 under Discussion of the motion, the minutes should indicate he was against the properties at 650-750 Mistletoe Rd. being included in the Detail Site Review zone.

 

Commissioners Dotterrer/Morris to approve the minutes as amended. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.

 

PUBLIC FORUM

No one came forward to speak.

 

TYPE III PUBLIC HEARINGS

A.      PLANNING ACTION: #2009-00817
APPLICANT: Southern Oregon University
DESCRIPTION: A request for adoption of the Southern Oregon University Campus Master Plan 2010-2020 as part of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. (This plan replaces the previously approved 2000-2010 Campus Master Plan.) COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Southern Oregon University; ZONING: S-O.

Commissioner Marsh read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.

 

Declaration of Ex Parte Contact

Commissioner Miller stated she performed a site visit. No ex parte contact was reported by any of the commissioners.

 

Staff Report

Community Development Director Bill Molnar explained in July 2009 the Planning Commission held a public hearing on the 2010-2020 Campus Master Plan but ran out of time before the Commission could take a vote. A week later, the University asked the City to put this item on hold so that they could conduct further outreach with the community. In December 2009, the University submitted a revised plan and requested that this be put back on the Planning Commission’s agenda. Mr. Molnar stated tonight the Planning Commission will hold a new public hearing and issue a recommendation to the City Council.

 

Mr. Molnar reviewed the suggested conditions presented by staff. In terms of the faculty housing proposed for Ashland St./Mountain Ave. and Henry Street, staff recommends: 1) conditional use permits be required, 2) the University adopt additional design standards addressing building scale, bulk, coverage and articulation, and 3) a Transportation Impact Analysis (TIA) be completed prior to final design. In regards to the faculty housing proposed for Walker Ave., staff is recommending: 1) the University adopt additional design standards addressing building scale, bulk, coverage, and articulation, 2) the Transportation Impact Analysis be completed prior to final design, and 3) conditional use permits be required for locations within 50 ft. of private property. For the mixed use development proposed for Ashland Street, staff recommends: 1) the project be subject to the City’s Detail Site Review and Large Scale Development standards, 2) a Transportation Impact Analysis be conducted prior to final design, and 3) the University adopt a Pedestrian Safety Plan and timeline for implementation.

 

Mr. Molnar explained one area of concern the University has identified is the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) requirement in the Detail Site Review zone. He stated the University has indicated the FAR maximum may be problematic for the types of buildings they may propose, and since this standard was formulated to apply to discrete commercial parcels, staff is open to some relaxation of this standard.

 

In regards to the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies, Mr. Molnar stated staff is recommending SOU promote the use of alternate modes of transportation and refine the campus parking requirements. In addition, staff is recommending the University provide the City with their TGM strategies and a timeline for implementation.

 

Mr. Molnar clarified staff is recommending all of the above be conditions of approval. He also clarified that while the City Council will review and adopt the entire plan, the Planning staff focused its review of the plan on the land use projects and elements that will come before the Planning Commission as the master plan is implemented.

 

Comment was made questioning why staff is not recommending the TIA be completed prior to the adoption of the master plan. Mr. Molnar explained master plans often indicate placeholders for development; however accurate traffic impact details are not available until specific projects are ready to move forward. He stated at this point looking at intersection changes based on the elements identified in the master plan would be premature; however the City’s upcoming Transportation System Plan update may identify areas within the campus where development is proposed and incorporate necessary facility improvements.

 

Applicant’s Presentation

Craig Morris and Eric Ridenour addressed the Commission. Mr. Morris noted last time they were before the Commission the neighbors had a lot of misunderstandings about the University’s proposed master plan; however since then, the University has given the community time to share their concerns and also arranged a public meeting last October to discuss the plan.

 

Mr. Ridenour stated the master plan elements are driven by retention, recruitment, and fiscal responsibility; and he listed the key elements of the plan as follows:

 

1)       Two academic buildings are proposed for capital investments. Theater Arts will have a major renovation and addition, and an addition is proposed for the Sciences Complex.

2)       Five buildings are identified for deferred maintenance projects: Churchill, Sciences, Britt, Central and McNeal.

3)       The University’s athletics program anticipates potential field use changes and increased access and visibility projects.

4)       The plan proposes to remove the Cascade Complex and outlines a new generation of modern housing located north of Ashland St. and Siskiyou Blvd.

5)       Faculty housing is proposed on Walker Ave. north of the railroad tracks, and also on Henry St. and Ashland St west of Mountain Ave.

 

Mr. Ridenour clarified of the two housing types proposed, the student housing project is by far the higher priority of the University. He also commented briefly on the circulation issues identified in the master plan, the enhanced pedestrian core, and noted the master plan also lays out a series of sustainability strategies.

 

Mr. Ridenour stated following the last Planning Commission hearing the University held a neighborhood meeting and members of the public were asked to vote on key questions. He shared some of the results from that activity and also provided the following clarifications: 1) the Ecos Garden site will remain intact under the update, 2) Oregon state funds will not be used to develop the proposed student and faculty housing, 3) the faculty housing improvements could be subject to property taxes, 4) the University does not have plans to acquire additional property in the next decade, 5) all plans for perimeter properties will have to follow the City’s conditional use process, 6) any faculty housing developed on Ashland St. will be limited to a 1 ˝ story height limit, and 2 stories for housing west of Mountain Ave., and 7) SOU has owned the softball fields north of Iowa St. for decades.

 

Mr. Ridenour noted the following elements of the proposed master plan have changed since the Planning Commission’s first hearing: 1) graphics and text have been updated to clarify that SOU does not have plans to expand into properties not currently owned by SOU, 2) the housing goals have been refined and clarified (up to 800 beds of new housing with the intent to replace beds in Cascade and potentially Susanne Homes), 3) the plan includes more data on commute patterns, 4) there is additional information on the condition of the Cascade Complex, and 5) added the statement “New faculty housing on Ashland St. (west of Mountain Ave) will not be more than 1 ˝ stories tall.”

 

Questions of Applicant

Mr. Ridenour clarified in general, the University has no objections with the conditions proposed by staff; however for the TIA they would like to look at the whole student housing area as a cluster rather than project by project.

 

Mr. Morris clarified the University is potentially looking at 600-1000 new students and roughly 40 new staff and faculty positions over the next 10 years. 

 

Mr. Morris commented on the student housing element and stated replacing the Cascade Complex is a major priority for them. He explained they have talked with students and they have indicated their disapproval of this style of housing and stated students now desire apartment-type living with living room spaces, kitchens and private bathrooms. He added the University views this as a recruitment and retention issue and it will be a priority for them to move forward with this relatively quickly. Mr. Ridenour noted their proposal is not to replace Cascade Hall on the same site, but rather to build new housing on the north side of Siskiyou Blvd. He also indicated the University will conduct a market study to ensure there is a market for this type of mixed use construction before they more forward. He stated they would not build the commercial square footage if they didn’t believe they could fill it, and clarified the commercial uses would be targeted to the student body.

 

Comment was made questioning if the University anticipates the increased number of students using public transportation since the master plan does not propose additional parking. Mr. Morris stated the University plans on making better use of their existing facilities and explained most classes currently occur between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. He stated as the student body expands they will hold classes later in the afternoon, hold more evening classes, and have more use of their Medford facility. Mr. Ridenour noted the master plan does recommend a review of the parking standards and to look for shared parking opportunities.

 

Comment was made questioning if the University would be willing to do some of this transportation modeling upfront rather than on a project by project basis. Mr. Morris provided an explanation of how the University receives funding and stated they will not have the money to conduct a comprehensive transportation study until specific projects are identified and approved by the board. He added it would be a financial hardship for them to agree to do a comprehensive study right now.

 

Mr. Molnar clarified the City’s TSP update will evaluate the impacts of the campus master plan if it is adopted, and noted the TSP will be looking at all modes of transportation. It was also clarified the University will be require to provide a pedestrian safety plan before anything can be built north of Siskiyou Blvd.

 

Mr. Morris commented briefly on the proposed faculty housing and noted the difficulty the University faces in attracting new staff due to Ashland’s housing market. He stated the master plan indicates a placeholder for this, but he does not anticipate the University will move forward with this right away.

 

Public Testimony

Dominique Brown, Abraham Bettinger, Keith Erickson, and Lindsay Tidwell allocated their time to Rivers Brown.

 

Rivers Brown/1067 Ashland St/Expressed his concern with the prioritized phased development of the faculty village and recommended the University prioritize their development as follows: 1) fully develop the north campus site first, 2) develop faculty housing along Henry Street adjacent to where apartments already exist and gradually move eastward, and 3) develop along Ashland St. just west of S. Mountain Ave. in the older established single-family neighborhood. Mr. Brown presented the reasoning behind this recommendation and stated the faculty village would fit in best at the north campus location since this is where all of the amenities for young families exist. Mr. Brown commented on why the faculty village may fail and shared his concerns with abandoning student housing above the boulevard. He stated the traffic and safety problems on Siskiyou Blvd. will only get worse and stated there is no good way to accommodate 3,000-6,000 extra crossings per day at the already congested Siskiyou/Wightman/Indiana intersection. Mr. Brown shared his concerns with the proposed mixed use student housing and stated it is only the privatization aspect of this housing scheme that dictates transferring the students to below the boulevard. He also shared his concerns with the University’s open house and felt the University was not open to their input.

(Mr. Brown’s full written testimony was submitted into the record.)

 

Cate Hartzell/892 Garden Way/Stated SOU is integral to the community and it is good to see the University has plans to replace the dorms; however, if this is a conceptual plan, the traffic and pedestrian issues should not be. Ms. Hartzell recommended the Planning Commission ask staff to research the possibility of grant opportunities for the City and University to come together and get the traffic study financed. She also recommended the mixed use housing be studied carefully given the commercial property market in Ashland and cautioned that it may take some time before that kind of commercial property fills up.

 

Sandra Slattery/1405 Pinecrest Terrace/Indicated she is speaking as a member of the SOU President’s Advisory Board. Ms. Slattery noted the University has 775 employees and the payroll alone contributes 48 million dollars annually into the City’s economy. She stated the connection between SOU and the growth and development of our community cannot be underestimated, and in order to ensure SOU’s continued success in this economy it must have a master plan. She stated the proposed improvements will enrich and expand the existing educational and recreational opportunities, as well as provide student and faculty enhancements. Ms. Slattery stated the development of faculty housing is an important incentive for the future of the University, especially in the recruitment of young professionals that we need in this community. She stated student housing options is an important selection criteria prospective students use, and urged the Commission to support the SOU Master Plan.

 

Alan DeBoer/2260 Morada Ln/Indicated he is also a member of the SOU President’s Advisory Board but is speaking as a citizen. Mr. DeBoer stated SOU is one of the great things about Ashland and asked that the Commission support this plan. He voiced his support for the proposed student housing upgrades and the potential for faculty housing. Mr. DeBoer stated he hopes the Commission does not require the University to do a transportation study up front. He noted they are a couple years away from building anything identified in the plan and he anticipates there will be some changes in transportation over the next 10 years. He added it makes more sense to do this study prior to the application when the University determines the specifics about what they want to build.

 

James Ford/507 Tucker St/Stated he is also a member of the SOU President’s Advisory Board. Mr. Ford voiced his support for the Campus Master Plan for the following six reasons: 1) the plan represents developments specific to the University’s existing education district and no new property acquisition is proposed, 2) the plan allows the University to become operationally efficient and ready to act as opportunities and the economy allows, 3) the plan will provide for facilities with the flexibility necessary to meet the ever changing needs of the campus, 4) SOU is a good steward and has been an excellent corporate citizen, 5) the University is committed to recruiting, developing and retaining outstanding faculty and staff, and this necessitates flexibility in facilities and housing on campus, and 6) the plan will help SOU become more financially sustainable by improving the academic facilities and residential options.

 

Rick Bleiweiss/1131 Highwood Dr/Stated he is a member of the SOU President Advisory Board but is speaking as a private citizen. Mr. Bleiweiss voiced his support for the approval of the University’s master plan. He stated in addition to being the largest employer in Ashland, SOU has the number one theater program west of the Rockies. Mr. Bleiweiss stated the theater renovation project is going to be critical to keeping and maximizing that status, and it is also going to bring a lot of jobs. He stated this plan creates a campus atmosphere committed to sustainability and he believes this plan goes hand in hand with the University’s climate action plan which set benchmarks for reducing carbon emissions and improving sustainable practices. Mr. Bleiweiss stated the University is trying to be a responsible member of this community and thinks they should do whatever they can to support SOU.

 

Rebuttal by the Applicant

Mr. Ridenour clarified the proposed housing is compatible with the surrounding area and noted the new design guidelines that were submitted with the plan. He also clarified the mixed use development will not be a gated area, but rather will incorporate good urban design principles and will also comply with the City’s Detail Site Review Zone requirements. Regarding the transportation issues, Mr. Ridenour stated they believe the strategy proposed by staff to tie the TIA assessment to significant development that will change circulation is the logical way to go. He stated this will allow the University to move forward with the master plan and pursue the funding they need to complete these projects and to do the necessary studies. He stated they believe this gives the City and the community the assurance they need that the planning will be done in advance of the impacts.

 

Mr. Morris commented on the process they have to follow with the State legislature for capital projects. He explained they need to have a master plan that sets a vision so they have a concrete basis for the prjoects they will start talking to legislatures about over the next few months. He asked the Commission to consider the impact not adopting this plan will have on them.

 

Advice from Legal Counsel & Staff

Mr. Molnar clarified if the City’s TSP update identifies issues with the University’s plan, the master plan can be modified or the City could impose conditions as these projects move forward.

 

Comment was made questioning if the TIA condition could be expanded to include all future housing projects, and not just those within the north campus area. Mr. Molnar clarified the general focus was on the larger mixed use project on Ashland Street, but this condition could be extended. 

 

Comment was made questioning why the TIA is tied to the housing since the larger issue is the commuter traffic and how the core of campus will be affected. Mr. Molnar commented that the appropriate vehicle to address the issue of future growth on the campus is the City’s TSP. Comment was made that this seems appropriate so long as the University is a player in that process since it is their goals, their campus, and their impact.

 

Comment was made expressing concern with the pedestrian situation on Siskiyou Blvd. and with the options that have been presented.

 

Comment was made questioning if the City has enough housing in the inventory for 600 more students. Mr. Molnar clarified there is enough land within the City’s urban growth boundary to meet our housing needs for the next 20 years, however the 5-year inventory for multi-family housing within the City limits is pretty tight.

 

Commissioner Marsh closed the record and public hearing at 9:03 p.m.

  

Deliberations and Decision

Commissioners Dotterrer/Rinaldi m/s to recommend the Council’s adoption of the 2010-2020 SOU Campus Master Plan as part of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, with the inclusion of staff’s recommended conditions on pages 2-6 of the Staff Report Addendum. DISCUSSION: Dotterrer clarified this recommendation includes the exemption for maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR), but does not exempt the separation of buildings requirement in the Detail Site Review standards.

 

Rinaldi recommended the Pedestrian Safety Plan condition be amended to read, “The Plan shall include but not be limited to improved crossings with enhanced pavement design and access controls with an on-going monitoring of pedestrian flow and safety issues.” Commissioner Dotterrer accepted this amendment as part of the motion.

 

Rinaldi recommended the condition regarding the Transportation Impact Analysis and Access Management also be amended to read, “All future housing projects proposed within the north campus area shall be subject to a transportation impact analysis (TIA) and access management standards described in the City of Ashland Transportation System Plan (TSP).” Dotterrer accepted this amendment as part of the motion.

 

Commissioner Miller suggested the faculty housing be constructed at the Walker Ave. location before the Ashland St/Glenwood Dr. area. Rinaldi commented that this could case the University some hardship and he would prefer to leave this to the University’s market analysis. He added he believes there is some benefit to having faculty housing closer to campus. Miller voiced her concern with adding more student housing on the north side of campus. She stated this takes away from the campus feeling and stated she also has concerns with the proposed mixed use buildings. Dawkins shared his concern that the proposed attached housing won’t match the surrounding neighborhood. He stated he also has concerns with moving housing below the boulevard. Marsh commented that she is comfortable moving this forward because the overall transportation impacts will be incorporated into the City’s TSP. She stated she believes the faculty housing on Henry St. is within the same impact as the other housing in the area. Marsh also commented on the student housing component and voiced her support for creating a zone of student activity near recreational facilities and potentially a commercial area. She acknowledged there is an issue with students crossing Siskiyou Blvd, but stated crossing the street is an age appropriate activity for a college student.

 

Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Dawkins, Mindlin, Morris, Marsh, Dotterrer, Rinaldi and Miller, YES. Motion passed 7-0.

 

OTHER BUSINESS

A.         Croman Mill District Plan – Minority Report

Commissioner Marsh explained this is the first time she has dealt with a minority report; and while she was initially open to doing this, at this point she does not believe the report meets her personal standard for a minority report. She stated she believes this report addresses issues the Commission never discussed and is much broader than she was anticipating. Commissioner Marsh provided her opinion that the report should be presented to the City Council at their public hearing by the individual members who drafted it.

 

The commissioners shared their opinions on whether it is appropriate to forward the minority report along with their formal recommendations to the City Council. Commissioner Miller stated the report addresses a lot of the issues that have been of concern to her and she is in favor of forwarding it to the City Council. Commissioner Morris gave his opinion that the report addresses items that were not on the record and stated he is in favor of the commissioners going before the Council as individuals and presenting their concerns. Commissioner Dotterrer stated he is comfortable with forwarding the minority report to the City Council and if it makes the other members more comfortable suggested adding a caveat that approval by the Commission does not imply an endorsement of the minority report’s content. Commissioner Marsh clarified her primary issue is that if the minority report is incorporated into the Commission’s official recommendation, it needs to be based on the same record of information. Commissioner Rinaldi voiced his support for others right to have a dissenting viewpoint, but does not know why that should carry the stamp of the Planning Commission. 

 

Commissioners Miller/Mindlin m/s to forward the Minority Report to the City Council. DISCUSSION: Commissioner Mindlin commented that forwarding the minority report would accomplish recognition that there were considerable issues discussed that are not represented in the recommendation. She stated everything in the report she attempted to bring forward during their discussions, and since they do not have verbatim minutes from their meetings it is difficult to see what was actually discussed. Mindlin stated she was encouraged to do this and would like to see the minority report move forward. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Dawkins, Mindlin and Miller, YES. Commissioners Rinaldi, Dotterrer, Morris, Blake and Marsh, NO. Motion fails 5-3.

 

Commissioner Marsh indicated she would like for the Commission to revisit the process that was used for the Croman Master Plan at a later date, possibly at a study session or at their annual retreat.

 

2. City of Ashland 2010 TGM Grant Application

Commissioner Marsh explained the Planning Commission is being asked to endorse a Transportation and Growth Management (TGM) Grant Application. Mr. Molnar explained it is that time of year when the City competes for potential grant dollars to do more advanced or long range planning. He stated the area identified for this grant is just south of Normal Ave. and East Main St; it is within the City’s urban growth boundary, but outside the City limits. Mr. Molnar stated some of the property owners in this neighborhood have approached the City over the years with an interest in master planning the area, but up until this point we have not been able to take on this project.

 

Mr. Molnar clarified in the past 6-months the Planning Division received a pre-application for a large development in this area and the property owners are seeking direction from the City on what they want to see happen for this area. He added if this grant was obtained this project would be meshed with the City’s TSP update.

 

Comment was made questioning if there are other areas the City could apply this grant to instead, such as the Tolman Creek Rd/Ashland St area. Mr. Molnar clarified the Normal neighborhood is the main area within the City’s urban growth boundary that is slated for future development that at this point the City does not have a comprehensive plan for. He added the City already received a grant for the TSP update and this project will evaluate the Tolman Creek/Ashland area.

 

Commissioner Miller noted she lives within the area identified. She stated there are areas along East Main that are not going to be densely populated and stated she would rather seek funding for areas that really have a problem.

 

Commission Mindlin indicated she would not be anxious to take this on unless there was development being pressed. Mr. Molnar clarified the pre-application the City received was a proposal for annexation and zone change to construct 160 apartments.

 

General consensus was reached for Commission Chair Marsh to sign the letter of support.

 

ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 10:00 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

April Lucas, Administrative Assistant

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